03 May When I’m Sixty-Four
A funny thing happened after many of my friends started turning sixty-four. I’m sure that this is not limited to me. I would make a fuss that we all sing The Beatles’ song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” To help us with our faulty memories and less than perfect voices, a cell phone or computer can quickly bring the original recording to the party. By the way, “Birthday” by The Beatles also gets a party moving pretty well.
I’m not sure why “When I’m Sixty-Four” holds such importance for me. When I first heard it, I was probably about ten or eleven and sixty-four must have seemed like a number that I would never reach. But some years ago, it hit me that I was soon to arrive at this threshold. Not that it is magical. Sixty or sixty-five or seventy are at least as significant. But for whatever reason, I am excited to sit with some loved ones and belt out this song. As I write, the official party is scheduled for tonight. Sedona and I have been rehearsing this song for months and she likes to interpret it with dance. I have told a few people that I don’t want much for my birthday, just an appearance from Paul McCartney to sing it for me. As my son Chandler said, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” I suppose he is right. I’ll let you know. But one thing I know: it will be played and sung as part of my celebration and I will smile, wondering, “How did I get here?”
Honestly, I am pleased to get here. It means that I have experienced a lot. I hope it means that I have grown and deepened my journey with God in the mystery which is our life. But each stage of life brings its distinctive work and the work of a sixty-four-year-old is different from the work of a forty-four-year-old or a twenty-four-year-old or a ninety-four-year-old. What is more difficult for us to see sometimes in our anxiety is that the work of whatever stage we are at is all one work.
I have been preparing to turn sixty-four my entire life. I am better prepared to seek God now than ever before. This is not to say that I am prepared to do it well, just that I have been learning as I go along and preparing for what comes next. And one thing that a long life will teach us is that we can never fully know what lies ahead and that the magic is to be found in each present moment. Can we practice, then, being present to each moment?
Eventually, the present moment leads us to death and I think about this reality often, because I have a deep desire to die well—fully conscious and present to this great mystery that will greet us all. As I sit in Centering Prayer each day, I practice letting go into each moment and experience an unmistakable presence which fills each moment. I know that it is present even when I am unable to access it directly. And that presence is love and depth and beauty. That presence is God.
So, what is sixty-four in the face of such mystery and love? It is just a drop in the bucket. We are all just a drop in the infinite ocean of God. But we matter—all of us. We matter deeply to this mysterious presence, and the fact that we get to participate in it is worthy of celebration no matter what number is attached to us. To this great gift of life! See you in church, just a bit older than before!